Sadness, confusion at funeral of slain Montreal youth

Mourners gathered in Montreal North Thursday to pay their final respects to Fredy Villanueva, the 18-year-old whose death in a police shooting on the weekend sparked a riot.
Friends of Fredy Villanueva console each other outside a Montreal funeral home Thursday. The 18-year-old was shot and killed by police on the weekend. His family appealed for calm in the Montreal North borough, while friends of the family demanded answers from police about his death. ((Peter McCabe/Associated Press/Canadian Press))

Mourners gathered in Montreal North Thursday to pay their final respects to Fredy Villanueva, the 18-year-old whose death in a police shooting on the weekend sparked a riot.

Villanueva was killed in a confrontation with two Montreal police officers on Saturday night. The next day, bands of young people rioted in the neighbourhood, looting stores, burning cars, torching garbage cans and leaving the streets littered with broken glass. A police officer was shot during the riot, but is recovering.

Villanueva’s family embraced each other outside the funeral home on Pie-IX Boulevard after the private ceremony.

His mother wept as a flock of doves was released into the sky. Many of his relatives wore T-shirts printed with his picture and remembered Villanueva as an innocent and peaceful man.

Balloons were also released as a symbol of peace and hope for the future, and as a sign of the community’s support for the family, said family spokesman Victor Henriquez.

Family, friends wants answers about Villanueva's death

The funeral was difficult for Villanueva's relatives and friends, who feel frustrated and confused by his death, Henriquez told the press.

But the family has faith in the law enforcement system, and trust they will get answers about the shooting, he said.

"The family continues to issue calls for peace," he said. "It's a message that's being respected by youngsters."

But other members of the community say many among them don't trust police nor their commitment to serve the family, who deserve to know the truth.

Villanueva's cousin Guendi Romero wears his picture on her shirt as she enters the funeral home. ((Peter McCabe/Associated Press/Canadian Pres))
 "The family, they have questions and they want answers and no one is doing nothing about that," said Karla Salinas, a family friend, before she headed inside for the funeral.

The Sureté du Québec, a provincewide police force, is in charge of the shooting investigation. Lt. François Doré promised it would be thorough.

Community groups demanded a public inquiry to establish the facts and help defuse simmering tension between the Montreal police force and young people in the poverty-stricken borough.

Some people attending the funeral said the weekend riot was just the beginning of unrest, and many anticipated more violence.

About 1,000 people from the neighbourhood gathered Wednesday night at Henri-Bourassa Park for a candlelight vigil.

Conflicting reports about Saturday's shooting

Montreal police say the officers involved in the shooting were threatened by a group of young people hanging out in an arena parking lot Saturday night.

The young men at the scene say they were playing dice when police came up to them and started badgering Villanueva's brother.

They say the 18-year-old was defending his older brother when he was shot.

Two other men in the group were also struck by bullets and are in stable condition.

The family is holding a press conference Friday to announce an event to raise money for funeral expenses.

Villanueva will be buried in a Laval cemetery.

With files from the Canadian Press